President Barack Obama picked federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court on Tuesday, May 26. If confirmed by the senate, Sotomayor would be the first Hispanic justice in history.
Sotomayor, 54, was born in Manhattan to Puerto Rican immigrants and grew up in the Bronxdale Houses. She suffered from juvenile diabetes. Her mother was a nurse at a methadone clinic; her father died when Sotomayor was nine years old.
Sotomayor devoured Nancy Drew books and spent hours watching Perry Mason on television. She set her mind on becoming a judge at age ten. Sotomayor attended Cardinal Spellman High School, Princeton University and Yale Law School.
She worked at a Manhattan law firm, and delivered a key ruling in 1995 that brought Major League Baseball back from a strike. Since 1998, she has served as a federal appeals judge.
If confirmed by the Senate, Sotomayor would succeed retiring Justice David Souter. She would be unlikely to change the ideological balance of the court; Souter is one of the Supreme Court’s more liberal members. Justices serve until they retire or die.
Administration officials say Sotomayor would bring more judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice confirmed in the past 70 years, and would appreciate the troubles of working class Americans. Democrats hold a large majority in the Senate; Obama will almost certainly get his way.
Sotomayor was appointed by a Republican, President George H.W. Bush, and named an appeals judge by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat. A decade ago, Sotomayor told the Senate, “I don’t believe we should bend the Constitution under any circumstance. It says what it says. We should do honor to it.” She has not authored any controversial ruling on abortion.
Sotomayor is a baseball fan and owns a condo in Greenwich Village. She earned $179,500 as a judge last year. Sotomayor has preserved “a deep, deep sense of humility.”
Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. wrote Obama recently to support Sotomayor’s bid.
“The nation is ready to embrace a more diverse view of itself,” Diaz Jr. wrote. “Given the lack of Hispanic judges in the upper echelons of the federal judicial system, there has been no better time to nominate a supremely qualified, experienced and empathetic Hispanic woman.”
Congressman Jose Serrano chimed in.
“The unique perspective of a Puerto Rican woman from the Bronx is something from which our Supreme Court will benefit greatly,” Serrano said. The Bronx is bursting with pride to know that one of the kids from the neighborhood, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a Puerto Rican, a Bronxite, has been honored.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.